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When he wants a kid but she doesn't

By Leanne Italie (Shanghai Daily)

08:20, September 10, 2012

KEN Budd fell for his high school sweetheart all over again when they reconnected after college.

Both were 25 when they married. He just assumed they'd have kids one day, something he had always wanted, but it wasn't until his father died 14 years later that he even broached the subject with his wife. The result?

"I wanted to have a child and she ultimately didn't," Budd says. "She said she just felt like she didn't have maternal feelings."

Far less has landed couples in divorce court, but the Burke, Virginia, couple - he an editor and she a nurse - made it through. Budd, now 46, says he gave up the parenting dream and channeled his fatherly feelings into volunteer work on behalf of poor kids all over the world, trips his wife came along on a couple of times.

"You both wind up feeling guilty," says Budd, who wrote a book about his travels and the reasons for them. "She feels guilty because she knows I wanted this thing but she didn't feel like she could do it and I feel guilty because I've put her in this position where she feels guilty, so we both had to work through some things."

Whether it's having children at all or how many to have, divorce attorneys and therapists say the issue rears regularly, but it's often unrealistic to think couples can close the negotiation on kids before heading to the altar.

Talking about it, at the very least, is a good idea before the rings are on.

"You may resent your partner for denying you something that is so important to you. On the flip side, if you pressure a spouse into having a child they don't want, it can be detrimental not only to the marriage but to the child as well," says Lori Freson, a therapist in Encino, California.

It's easy, she says, to pretend a kid divide before the nuptials doesn't exist.

"Denial and avoidance can be very powerful, especially in a love relationship," Freson says. "Love makes us do crazy things. Most people in love don't want to acknowledge the reasons why it might NOT work."

Sometimes minds change.

David Knoller is 65. He retired a few months ago as a medical research administrator at a hospital near his Fair Lawn, New Jersey, home. His wife, Rochelle, worked as a librarian for more than 20 years.

They have a 28-year-old son who, Rochelle notes wryly, "doesn't know how lucky he is to be alive."

The Knollers met in the summer of 1976, in line to renew their driver's licenses in Manhattan. They married the following January. Like the Budds, Rochelle was 25. Just about all of her friends were single at the time and of one thing she was certain: She didn't want kids.

"I had had a pretty unhappy childhood. I certainly didn't enjoy the child part of it, but my parents didn't seem to be having a good time, either," she says. "I had made up my mind not to have a child and that was it."

David, who is five years older, was aware of her feelings. He knew he wanted to be a dad, but love won. They were best friends who enjoyed hanging out together. And they were young. They were having fun.

"I figured time was on my side," he says. "I figured that it was a discussion that could be deferred until we really got to know each other."

It worked, about six years later, when Rochelle decided without urging to get pregnant at a time she was having trouble getting her career in recreation therapy off the ground. She trained later in library science.

"I occasionally used to wonder if I had found librarianship earlier would I have made this same decision, and will never know obviously," she says.

Jacqueline Newman, managing partner of a Manhattan family law firm specializing in wealthy clients, says Rochelle's turnaround isn't unique.

A variety of factors are usually at play once somebody comes knocking on Newman's door. When having kids is one, a change of heart by one or the other often surfaces, she says.

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